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The Angry Grammarian

17 November, 2008

Jeffrey Barg, Samuel Johnson would be so proud of you. Like him you cling to the past, desparately trying to force an ever-changing beautiful language into the stultifying rules of an already-dead one, codifying, limiting with endless, meaningless boundaries, imposing structure where none was necessary for centuries before.  Thank whatever god you pray to that Johnson came after Shakespeare and Chaucer, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson, and Francis Bacon; none of whom knew how to spell Johnson’s English, but all of whom are more fondly read and remembered than he (except, of course, by scholars like you and me). 

I know the value of grammar, but I also recognize the value of oral language, personal language, oral history.  What I don’t understand is someone like you.  Why do you hide behind your rules and templates?  Why do you pretend to care for language when what you really want to do is use your knowledge for personal attack?

Further, sir, I do not understand why your mind could find only the word “hysterectomy” when there are so many fine words in our language, eg. “It would be an honor to speak to the American people in a personal and an honest way,”  or “It would be a horrific moment to have my daughters and son insulted by a pedant who shows off his knowledge,” or “I am a misogynist (a hater of women) who pretends that he is not.”

Is that pedantic enough for you?  Did I put all my commas in the right place?  I hope so, because I am not sure you would understand my meaning if I did not follow all of Mr. Johnson’s rules. 


You may respond to me at if you wish, but mind your manners.. 

Que Sarah SeraForgetting Sarah Palin. 


by Jeffrey Barg


Que Sarah Sera

Frankly, I was ready to move on. With all the ballots cast, I would’ve been perfectly happy to go back to crusading against the serial comma. But as big as this election was for America, our social progress was almost eclipsed by the country’s grammatical confusion.

Did you witness the election night slapstick, how anchors and pundits corrected one another over whether it was “a historic night” or “an historic night”? Stewart and Colbert actually got in a tiff about it. The problem was the TV personalities couldn’t figure out if they were speaking or reading.

If you’re speaking, “an historic” is acceptable, but you can’t say the H: It’s gotta be “an ’istoric.” If you do pronounce the H, or if you’re writing it down, go with “a.” You wouldn’t say, for example, “Someone should give Sarah Palin an hysterectomybefore she spreads her devil spawn any further.” You’d say “a hysterectomy.” Same with “a historic.”

In another shocker, the good governor herself wasn’t immune to linguistic foibles leading up to the big day. Just before votes were cast Sarah Palin told Fox News’ Sean Hannity she was “very excited and anxious for the 4th.”

I suspect Hannity was too busy drooling to notice, but the word she probably meant was “eager,” not “anxious.” Unless she was trying to tell Fox News viewers she had anxiety about losing—which she didn’t—she made the all too common mistake of confusing “anxious” and “eager.” It’s an important distinction: She waseager for Election Day; she’s anxious about the impending hysterectomy she doesn’t yet know we’ve scheduled for her.


But perhaps the most prized spoil of the election is the richest word to enter the lexicon in a long time. Like all the best neologisms, it’s descriptive, it’s self-explanatory and it just makes you feel so good: “Palinfreude.”

Even more than reports that she didn’t know Africa was a continent, it may be the best thing Sarah Palin gave us in her short, inglorious political life … other than President-elect Obama, of course.

If only she knew what it meant, she could enjoy it too. Seems like it’d be right up the vindictive bitch’s alley.

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